To cite: Raad, N. (2023). I see beauty in EVERYONE: A teenager calls for the fashion industry to catch up. International Journal of Youth-Led Research, 3(1).
Special thanks to
Dr. J. Juelis
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I see beauty in EVERYONE: A teenager calls for the fashion industry to catch up
Born and raised in California to a family of diverse and rich Middle Eastern culture, I have the ability to see beauty everywhere and in everyone. The fashion industry, however, seems to have a smaller mind than I do. The lack of diversity and inclusivity in the industry has been negatively affecting generations of people like me: people from various ethnicities and cultures, People of Color (PoC), adolescents seeking self-identities, and women at large.
The fashion industry lacks diversity and inclusivity (Cavusoglu & Atik, 2022). More recently there has been increasing demand for the industry to be more diverse to the many cultures and ethnicities, its adversities in front of and behind the camera. This lack of diversity has the potential to impact adolescents. The industry’s need for more diversity is a popular problem. The fashion industry has been criticized for its short contrast of beauty, in which it often excludes PoC and people from different ethnicities and cultures. This lack of representation can have a strong impact on young people. When adolescents - mainly PoC - are at a vulnerable stage in their development, exposure to white beauty standards can be damaging to both themselves and others (Dove, 2021).
The fashion industry affects adolescents through its beauty standards. When adolescents are regularly exposed to images of tall, thin, and attractive only to white standards it creates an increase in insecurities. This can lead adolescents to develop unrealistic expectations of their own bodies and contribute to body disorders that increase the risk factor for eating disorders. In addition to its impact on body image, the lack of diversity in the fashion industry can also affect adolescents' self-identity in different ways. For example, the industry's limited definition of beauty can add to harmful stereotypes. When adolescents do not adhere to the industry's definition of beauty standards, it demonstrates that they are not seen like others. This can lead to social and physical rejections as well as have negative repercussions on adolescents' mental health and body image. Comparably, overall body image issues are a problem many see with today's adolescents. According to Paediatrics & Child Health (1998), eating disorders are complex illnesses that can affect adolescents, today an eating disorder ranks third most common among young adolescents and a 5% increase has been prominent today. Many question what contributes to this increase in these problems. The fashion industry's promotion of thin bodies and ideal beauty standards could be a contributing factor.
The ongoing underrepresentation of body types and people of color dictates how adolescents compare themselves to models with unrealistic standards of beauty. Persistently, adolescents have grown to measure their self-beauty as comparable to white features. Adolescence is proven to be a time when one is hyper-aware of their looks (Voelker et al., 2015) and when those adolescents see people on screen who don't have their body shape or even skin color, it affects how they see themselves. Often, with little to no life experience, teens look to fashion shows or entertainment to navigate themselves through real-life experiences. When watching these entertainment sources and seeing no one to whom they can relate physically, they fill in the gap by modeling themselves to said person. Social media is an ongoing representation of this. There are relatively few long-term studies of social media usage. In the study of Fardouly and Vartanian (2016) the researchers found that greater social media usage predicted greater body dissatisfaction and increased appearance-related discussions with peers 18 months later. Profoundly, young teens' lack of confidence can stem from a lack of diversity in this industry. When companies push the message that this white, tall and thin, blue-eyed model is the standard of beauty for all, adolescents become insecure about their bodies and skin color. Therefore, to truly grasp the concept of the effects of lack of diversity in adolescents establishing confidence in themselves, we need to grasp the physiological portion of the young growing body.
Many adolescents' sense of self can stem from expressing their personalities with their clothing (Twigg, 2009). When the industry often produces clothing that conforms to thin beauty standards, it can limit the clothing options available to adolescents and prevent them from expressing themselves fully. This can add to making adolescents feel like they do not belong. Despite all this, there are still many steps to take. The fashion industry relies heavily on models that are white and thin. While some fashion brands have made changes in diversifying their overall advertising, only some brands continued through with advertising to produce clothing for all body types and sizes. Many women report not feeling seen or comfortable in the clothes that they wear. Many also feel as though the industry is not reflective of people's own styles but tries pushing agendas on many.
In conclusion, the continuous lack of diversity shown in the fashion industry has the tools to have a significant impact on adolescents' confidence. Young people’s exposure to these standards can be damaging to their self-worth and overall esteem. While the industry has begun to change in recent years, the industry still has a long way to go with the overall diversity of its models and clothing. It should change the standards of beauty and make sure that all young people feel valued and included.
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Cavusoglu, L., & Atik, D. (2022). Extending the diversity conversation: Fashion consumption experiences of underrepresented and underserved women. Journal of Consumer Affairs, 57(1), 387. https://doi.org/10.1111/joca.12504
Dove, L. M. (2021). The influence of colorism on the hair experiences of African American female adolescents. Genealogy, 5(1). https://doi.org/10.3390/genealogy5010005
Fardouly, J., & Vartanian, L. R. (2016). Social media and body image concerns: Current research and future directions. Current Opinion in Psychology, 9, 1–5. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.copsyc.2015.09.005
Mitchell Dove, L. (2021). The influence of colorism on the hair experiences of African American female adolescents. Genealogy, 5(1), 5. https://doi.org/10.3390/genealogy5010005
Paediatrics & Child Health. (1998). Eating disorders in adolescents: Principles of diagnosis and treatment. The Canadian Paediatric Society. https://doi.org/10.1093/pch/3.3.189
Twigg, J. (2015). Clothing, identity, embodiment and age. Textile-Led Design for the Active Ageing Population, 13–24. https://doi.org/10.1016/b978-0-85709-538-1.00002-x
Voelker, D. K., Reel, J. J., & Greenleaf, C. (2015). Weight status and body image perceptions in adolescents: current perspectives. Adolescent health, medicine and therapeutics, 6, 149–158. https://doi.org/10.2147/AHMT.S68344